Categories, Part II: Prototypes, Fuzzy Sets, and Other Non-Classical Theories

A few years ago The Economist published “Lil Jon, Grammaticaliser.” “Lil Jon’s track ‘What You Gonna Do’ got me thinking,” the author tells us, “of all things, the progressive grammaticalisation of the word shit.” In it, Lil Jon repeats “What they gon’ do? Shit” and in this lyric, shit doesn’t …

Identifying Cultural Variation in Thinking

What does it mean to identify cultural variation in thought? Sociologists routinely identify differences in the way people think or reason about things (e.g., Young 2004), but what does it mean to think differently, and how are differences identified? In this post, I introduce a way of thinking about this …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part II

Beyond the Content-Storage Metaphor The underlying neural structures constitutive of habitus are procedural (Kolers & Roediger, 1984), based on motor-schemas constructed from the experience of interacting with persons, objects, and material culture in the socio-physical world (Gallese & Lakoff, 2005; Malafouris, 2013). Habitus affords the capacity to learn because we …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part I

In this and subsequent posts, I will attempt to revise, reconceptualize and update the concept of habitus using the theoretical and empirical resources of contemporary cognitive neuroscience and cognitive social science. I see this step as necessary if this Bourdieusian notion is to have a future in social theory. Conversely, …

When is Consciousness Learned?

Continuing with the theme of innateness and durability from my last post, consider the question: are humans born with consciousness? In a ground-breaking (and highly contested) work, the psychologist Julian Jaynes argued that if only humans have consciousness, it must have emerged at some point in our human history. In …

Cultural Cognition in Time, from Memory to Imagination

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about the concept of imagination. It emerged out of my efforts to understand the generational change in public opinion about same-sex marriage in the U.S. when it became clear to me that young and old simply imagined homosexuality and same-sex marriage in …

“Learning By Nodes”: Dendritic Learning and What It Means (Or Not) for Cultural Sociology

In a paper published earlier this year in Scientific Reports and further discussed in a later ACS Chemical Neuroscience article, a group of researchers argues that learning might not function like we previously thought. The researchers (Sardi et al. 2018a, 2018b) explain that the dominant conceptualization in cognitive neuroscience of …

Limits of innateness: Are we born to see faces?

Sociologists tend to be skeptical of claims individuals are consistent across situations, as a recent exchange on Twitter exemplifies. This exchange was partially spurred by revelations that the famous Stanford Prison Experiment (which supposedly showed people will quickly engage in behaviors commensurate with their assigned roles even if it means …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part Two

In part one, I examined two recent frameworks for understanding ideology (Jost and Martin) and explained how both serve as alternatives to the good old-fashioned ideology theory (GOFIT). Ultimately, I concluded that Martin’s (2015) model has specific advantages over Jost’s (2006) model, though the connection between ideology and “practical mastery …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part One

The concept of ideology is surely one of the sacred cow concepts of sociology (and the social sciences more generally) and is one of the special few that circulates widely outside the ivory tower. It is also a concept that is arguably the most indebted of all to the presumption that …

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